Pharmacists urge Senate to include more support for patients as they consider Bill C-45 to legalize cannabis
Recreational users should not have better access than patients who require cannabis for medical purposes
May 24, 2018 (Ottawa): With the legalization of recreational cannabis looming on the horizon, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), joined by the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP), appeared today before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to discuss Bill C-45. Pharmacists are asking the Senate to include more support for patients who use medical cannabis by ensuring that there is a clear differentiation between the recreational and medical cannabis streams, with incentives for patients to remain in the medical cannabis stream.
“While we generally believe that Bill C-45 provides many important and necessary protections in the legalization of recreational cannabis, we’re concerned about the impact of cannabis legalization on patients who are taking medical cannabis for pain, epilepsy, MS and other conditions,” says Phil Emberley, Director, Practice Advancement and Research, CPhA. “If the legislation doesn’t appropriately consider the medical cannabis stream, it will be a huge disservice to these patients and result in recreational users having better access than patients who require cannabis for medical purposes.”
The proposed regulatory approach maintains the current status quo for medical cannabis under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). This will make recreational cannabis easier to access than medical cannabis and risk pushing patients into the recreational stream.
Of great concern to Canada’s 40,000 medication experts is the risk to patient safety. Pharmacists are best equipped to provide clinical advice to patients and appropriate oversight in the safe management and dispensing of medical cannabis. They are highly accessible and can assess patient medication profiles for drug interactions and help prevent, monitor and report side effects to help build a body of evidence.
Currently, when patients receive a medical document for cannabis, access is strictly available through mail-order licensed distributors or by personal cultivation. “There will be little incentive for patients to continue to access cannabis this way once recreational cannabis is widely available in retail stores, especially since the government has indicated that it wants to impose a similar taxation framework for both streams,” says Emberley.
If easier access pushes patients to the recreational cannabis stream, they risk losing all medical oversight and increase their chances of complications. “We need to ensure that medical cannabis patients are supported and protected through a distinct medical stream, and incentivized to continue to use this stream once recreational cannabis is legal,” says Emberley.
About the Canadian Pharmacists Association
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians.